For years, parents have been coached to focus on the well-rounded child. A little bit of everything is the key to Harvard, Yale, or Princeton…or so the story goes.
Children should read a lot, play several sports, try a few instruments, write, sing, dance, and the list goes on. Are you exhausted yet? I am.
I’m a huge believer in everything in moderation. Huge believer. I think the world has a lot to offer out children, and I think they should navigate their way through it by trial and error.
The best way to find your passion, after all, is to get out there and explore the world around you.
My daughter, for instance, loves to dance. Loves it. She’s constantly creating new routines and giving me lessons. We tried one class, but the teacher was terrible. Then we tried another. It was great. It was a ballet/tap combination. The teacher was lovely, the facility was beautiful, and the tutus were exceptionally cute. And for about six months, it was her favorite activity. Until one day…when it wasn’t. As it turns out, my daughter is a bit of a free spirit and probably isn’t meant for traditional dance instruction.
So we moved on. We’ve done gymnastics, art, cooking, and soccer. She loves loves loves soccer.
She manages to find something positive in almost every class she tries, and she learns a lot along the way. In my mind, that’s as good as it gets for a five year old. Learning something new and having fun along the way.
But some kids are different. Some kids are very passionate about certain activities. For some reason, the parents always seem to take the blame when a child finds a passion at a young age.
She’s pushing him into it…other parents whisper from the back of the room.
He always wanted to play football, so now he’s making his son into a star, they say with a smirk.
I won’t deny that there are parents out there who push just a little too hard. I’ve overheard mothers discussing ways to earn dance scholarships…outside a ballet class for toddlers. Yes, there are parents out there who try to create specific futures for their kids.
But there are also kids out there who are truly passionate about their activity of choice.
Perhaps it’s because I married a man who first picked up a bass guitar at age 11 and declared his goal to become a professional musician shortly thereafter. Perhaps it’s because he met (and continues to meet) that goal.
Or perhaps it’s because I have a very passionate four year old on my hands (passionate about the drums – not my first choice, I can assure you).
And maybe, just maybe, it’s because I’ve counseled countless kids over the years, and the ones who had a passion with big dreams attached were the ones who ranked high on self-confidence and low on self-doubt.
Yes, passionate kids are intense. They are in it. They have goals in mind and they intend to see them through. They practice – hard. They eat, sleep, and breathe with their goals in mind.
These are the kids who dance to the bus stop, drum their fingers on the breakfast table, and dribble a soccer ball all over the house. These are the kids who don’t mind missing birthday parties, play dates, or movie nights. These are the kids who follow a linear path.
When passionate kids are doing what they love, they feel confident. Their self-esteem skyrockets as they take the stage or begin penning their latest short story. They don’t worry about the outside chatter or opinion of others because they are working toward their dreams, and that feels good.
And passionate kids know a thing or two about failure. To put yourself out there and work that hard is to know that you won’t always win the gold medal. It doesn’t stop them though, because they learn to cope with defeat. They learn to try a new routine, start from the beginning, or seek extra help.
They learn to thrive.
Yes, the passionate child learns to just keep swimming.
There is no perfect child. There are no perfect parents. Some kids try a little bit of everything, while others hone in on a passion very early on.
Parent the child that you have, not the child that others think you ought to raise.
There is no greater self-esteem killer than stifling a child’s interests or shattering a child’s dreams.
So go ahead and drive to those soccer games, dance competitions, or, gulp, battles of the bands and give your child the ultimate gift – the gift of unconditional love and support.
Your child is counting on you…that much I can promise.